Thursday, November 11, 2010

TC: Feeling for the Ground


File:Pasha Bulker grounded.jpg

MV Pasha Bulker grounded on Nobby's Beach, near Newcastle (Australia)
: photo by Web107, 2007

At first, and perhaps for a very long time, I existed as if at sea, drifting, and did not know what if anything lay under me.

Then came a change.

When my elders named some object, and accordingly moved towards something, I saw this and vaguely grasped that that the thing was called by the sound they uttered when they meant to point it out.

I glimpse myself in baby photos, attending curiously to such sounds, pensive, ignorantly wondering.

It all comes back to me now.

Adrift in my wordless sea, I was trying to read their minds, as if feeling for the ground.

What did they mean, when they uttered these strange sounds?

Their intention was shown by their bodily movements: the expression of their faces, the play of their eyes, the movement of other parts of their bodies, and, especially, the tones of their voices; which, I dimly now perceived, expressed their states of mind in seeking, having, or rejecting something.

In this way, as I heard words repeatedly used in their proper places in various sentences, I gradually learned to understand what objects they signified; and after I had trained my mouth to form these signs, I used them to express my own desires.

It was then I began to have a feeling for the ground. I walked a great deal, mostly alone, perhaps mostly on a hill, or then again it may have been a small mountain. Certainly it seemed solid enough.

As the scenery passed by, I could now put words to it; there was a sense of dwarf mastery in this; the achievements of the mind have their own satisfactions. However minor, however transitory.

But before very much more time had passed, I realized I retained a powerful longing for the open sea from which I had come.

This feeling of longing has remained with me to this day.

File:Glacous Gull on ice.jpg

Glaucous gull (Larus hyperboreus): photo by Alastair Rae. 2005

from: Tom Clark: Feeling for the Ground (BlazeVox, 2010)

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